EuroZone to add theaters to network

AMSTERDAM — European DocuZone, a Dutch Film Fund initiative to bring docs to the bigscreen, has unveiled plans to expand its digital cinema network to cover another seven territories across Europe by the end of this year.

The fund launched the original DocuZone operation at 10 theaters in Holland in 2002 but now, in collaboration with Docspace U.K. and Germany’s Salzgeber & Co. Medien, has solidified plans to transform 175 specialist cinema venues across Europe into a digital cinema network.

Each venue will have at least two screens. EDZ is working with partners in the eight territories — Austria, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and the U.K. — with plans to distribute at least 12 European docus annually.

Some venues will start off as e-cinema venues but upgrade to d-cinemas soon as possible.

EDZ founder Kees Ryninks told Daily Variety he believes the new initiative will give a major new push to the European film industry, giving a film the possibility of simultaneous release Europewide. He points to docs such as “Etre et avoir” (To Be and to Have), which racked up S19 million ($24 million) internationally at the box office, and “Bowling for Columbine,” which took in $60 million, as reflective of a new hunger by auds for docs made for theatrical release.

Belief by Ryninks and EDZ is that vulnerable film genres will benefit from the economies of scale of a digital cinema net, which can reach a wider audience at a fraction of the current costs for blow-up, print and transport.

In the first year the 10 participating cinemas in Holland pulled in 30,000 visitors, exceeding expectations by 50%.

Research by Docspace U.K. in 2002 found that those who favored seeing docs on the bigscreen were on average under 30 years of age, well educated and watched less TV than average cinemagoers. “The audience profile is good news for cinema advertising too,” said Ryninks.

Cinemas in the partnership will collaborate on joint audience research, marketing and publicity to reduce costs. Initiative is also supported by the European Community’s Media Plus program.

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